SEATTLE - After a trickle of updates and "betas" bearing the Windows Live moniker, Microsoft Corp. is ready to start promoting its official package of free desktop programs for e-mail, instant messaging, blogging, and sharing photos.
The programs are "essentially a free upgrade for Windows," said Brian Hall, general manager of Windows Live at Microsoft.
The package includes Windows Live Mail, which can grab messages from multiple free Web-based e-mail accounts, including Microsoft's Hotmail, Google Inc.'s Gmail, and AOL e-mail.
The new package, launched yesterday, allows PC users to read and respond to mail even when they're not online, just as Outlook Express, which Microsoft has phased out, did.
Its Windows Live Photo Gallery lets users manipulate and organize digital photos and upload them to Flickr, a photo-sharing site owned by Yahoo, and to Windows Live Spaces, Microsoft's own blogging, and social networking site.
The package also includes Live Writer, for writing blog posts, the Live Messenger instant messaging program, and Live Family Safety, parental controls for Web surfing at home. The applications aren't much different from test versions previously available.
Hall said the company has planned "one of the largest online advertising campaigns at Microsoft," with plans for 10 billion Web ad impressions on Microsoft's MSN sites and third-party sites, including the social networking site Facebook, in which Microsoft bought a 1.6 percent stake last month.
Microsoft's Windows group will be marketing Windows Live alongside its latest Vista operating system during the crucial holiday shopping season.